Education Law Solicitors

Everything you face, we face with you

Teacher fired after ordering pupil out over Covid rules

A private school teacher was dismissed after she ordered a pupil to leave the classroom for removing his Covid mask to drink water.

An employment tribunal heard that Suzanne Smith sent the child out of the class just 38 seconds into her lesson, as he didn’t ask for permission to take his face covering off. The incident took place on Dec 4, 2020 – a month after the Welsh Government announced all secondary school students in the country were to wear masks in outside and communal areas of schools.

Mrs Smith claimed the boy’s actions had “presented a serious and imminent risk of danger”, but she failed to check on him for almost half an hour. By then, the teenager went to another part of the school. Mrs Smith worked as a teacher at private school St Clare’s in Porthcawl, South Wales. The school is one of 40 in the UK run by Cognita Schools and hosts a nursery, prep school, and senior school with annual fees of up to £14,000 a year.

A teaching assistant who had previously disagreed with Mrs Smith’s “methods of teaching” – including her “excessively shouting” at pupils, raised concerns about the incident. Mrs Smith was suspended after a subsequent disciplinary meeting in which it was judged she had created a “safeguarding and welfare issue”.  For sending the pupil out, and not checking on him, she was dismissed.

The teacher told the hearing that her strictness when it came to Covid was due to her having a “clinically vulnerable” son. However, after hearing she had taken her family on holiday to Greece (including her son when he “should have been shielding”) the tribunal rejected her claims of Covid fears and threw out her claim for unfair dismissal.

Judge Angharad Lloyd-Lawrie added that Mrs Smith had tried to “mislead” the school and the tribunal as to her level of fear about the pandemic.

in News